Amazon is working to develop biometric scanners to link handprints to credit cards, allowing shoppers to buy with the swipe of their palm

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  • Amazon is working with credit card companies to create terminals to allow users to pay for items with biometric data from their handprint.
  • The online retailer previously patented such technology, which had been presumed to be used at its Whole Food stores
  • Amazon currently allows shoppers at its Amazon Go grocery store to pay for items without ever going through a checkout process by downloading the Amazon Go app.
  • The technology could give Amazon more information about consumer spending habits, which could allow them to charge a higher rate to advertisers.

Amazon has plans to create payment terminals that would allow shoppers to link a credit card with their own handprint, allowing them to pay at brick-and-mortar stores by simply waving their hand across a scanner, according to a report Saturday from The Wall Street Journal.

The WSJ reported that discussions to create the pay-by-hand terminals are in their early stages, though Amazon has already begun the development process with Visa and is in talks to work with MasterCard.

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The major discoveries that could transform the world in the next decade

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Here’s what scientists are really excited about.

The last decade ushered in some truly revolutionary advances in science, from the discovery of the Higgs boson to the use of CRISPR for Sci-Fi esque gene editing. But what are some of the biggest breakthroughs still to come? Live Science asked several experts in their field what discoveries, techniques and developments they’re most excited to see emerge in the 2020s.

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Lab-grown meat also creates an unexpected benefit: Ethical zebra burgers

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“What are the odds that these animals contain the tastiest, most nutritionally rich food offerings?”

The term “cultivated meat” is industry’s preferred language for the admittedly unappetizing-sounding “lab-grown meat,” and it has the potential to actually change the world.

This lab-grown meat could reduce the various impacts of raising animals for slaughter, which is the second-largest source of global warming emissions, as well as save sentient beings from needless cruelty.

The technology behind cultivating meat involves taking stem cells from the muscle of a living animal, which are then fed a serum rich in nutrients. This causes the cells to proliferate and transform into muscle cells. That’s when lab technicians step in and encourage these multiplying cells to take shape and form fibers. The fibrous material is then placed in a vat, which provides the ideal conditions to stimulate growth. Eventually, the tissue grows to the point where it can be cooked and eaten.

Voila, you’ve got yourself a lab-grown hamburger.

Continue reading… “Lab-grown meat also creates an unexpected benefit: Ethical zebra burgers”

Mini brains grown in the laboratory produce brainwaves. Now what?

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It’s hard to study the human brain. It is the most complex in the animal kingdom with its massive collection of neurons, 80-100 billion to be exact, three times more than chimpanzees. Research relating our brains to the brains of mice and monkeys can only go so far. And because of this complexity, scientists often came up short when studying diseases such as schizophrenia, autism, and Alzheimer’s in the brains of monkeys and mice.

Enter minibrains.

Minibrains are small clusters of human brain cells that can be grown in a Petri dish. Floating through the agar, these small gray lumps don’t look particularly impressive, but they are allowing scientists to study actual living human brain tissue in ways they couldn’t before.

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Scientists create a device that can mass-produce human embryoids

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These human embryo-like structures (top) were synthesized from human stem cells; they’ve been stained to illustrate different cell types. Images (bottom) of the “embryoids” in the new device that was invented to make them. Yi Zheng/University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Scientists have invented a device that can quickly produce large numbers of living entities that resemble very primitive human embryos.

Researchers welcomed the development, described Wednesday in the journal Nature, as an important advance for studying the earliest days of human embryonic development. But it also raises questions about where to draw the line in manufacturing “synthetic” human life.

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Gene-hacking mosquitoes to be infertile backfired spectacularly

 

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Best-Laid Plans

On its surface, the plan was simple: gene-hack mosquitoes so their offspring immediately die, mix them with disease-spreading bugs in the wild, and watch the population drop off. Unfortunately, that didn’t quite pan out.

The genetically-altered mosquitoes did mix with the wild population, and for a brief period the number of mosquitoes in Jacobino, Brazil did plummet, according to research published in Nature Scientific Reports last week. But 18 months later the population bounced right back up, New Atlas reports — and even worse, the new genetic hybrids may be even more resilient to future attempts to quell their numbers.

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Mini-brains grown in a lab have human-like brain activity

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A new study promises new paths to research mental illness, but raises questions about whether so-called organoids could develop consciousness

Alysson Muotri was dumbfounded when the pea-sized blobs of human brain cells that he was growing in the lab started emitting electrical pulses. He initially thought the electrodes he was using were malfunctioning.

Muotri was wrong. What the cells were emitting were brain waves — rhythmic patterns of neural activity. “That was a big surprise,” he says.

The 3D blobs of brain cells, known as organoids, are commonly used in disease and drug research to replicate organs. But no “mini-brain” had ever shown signs of brain waves before.

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Gene editing transforms gel into shape-shifting material

 

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The CRISPR technique can trigger the new material to release drugs or pick up biological signals

Is there anything CRISPR can’t do? Scientists have wielded the gene-editing tool to make scores of genetically modified organisms, as well as to track animal development, detect diseases and control pests. Now, they have found yet another application for it: using CRISPR to create smart materials that change their form on command.

The shape-shifting materials could be used to deliver drugs, and to create sentinels for almost any biological signal, researchers report in Science on 22 August1. The study was led by James Collins, a bioengineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.

Collins’ team worked with water-filled polymers that are held together by strands of DNA, known as DNA hydrogels. To alter the properties of these materials, Collins and his team turned to a form of CRISPR that uses a DNA-snipping enzyme called Cas12a. (The gene-editor CRISPR–Cas9 uses the Cas9 enzyme to snip a DNA sequence at the desired point.) The Cas12a enzyme can be programmed to recognize a specific DNA sequence. The enzyme cuts its target DNA strand, then severs single strands of DNA nearby.

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Gene-edited cattle have a major screwup in their DNA

 

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Bid for barnyard revolution is set back after regulators find celebrity “hornless” bovines contaminated by bacterial genes.

They were the poster animals for the gene-editing revolution, appearing in story after story. By adding just a few letters of DNA to the genomes of dairy cattle, a US startup company had devised a way to make sure the animals never grew troublesome horns.

To Recombinetics—the St. Paul, Minnesota gene-editing company that made the hornless cattle—the animals were messengers of a new era of better, faster, molecular farming. “This same outcome could be achieved by breeding in the farmyard,” declared the company’s then-CEO Tammy Lee Stanoch in 2017. “This is precision breeding.”

Except it wasn’t.

Food and Drug Administration scientists who had a closer look at the genome sequence of one of the edited animals, a bull named Buri, have discovered its genome contains a stretch of bacterial DNA including a gene conferring antibiotic resistance.

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Wait, What? The first human-monkey hybrid embryo was just created in China

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Last week, news broke that a prominent stem cell researcher is making human-monkey chimeras in a secretive lab in China.

The story, first reported by the Spanish newspaper El País, has all the ingredients of a bombshell. First, its protagonist is the highly-respected Dr. Juan Carlos Izpisúa Belmonte, a Spanish-born stem cell biologist at the Salk Institute in California known for his breakthroughs in anti-aging research. His other fascination? Human-animal chimeras, in which animal embryos are injected with human cells and further developed inside a surrogate animal’s body. Second, according to El País, Izpisúa Belmonte may have collaborated with monkey researchers in China to circumvent legal issues in the US and Spain, where research with primates is heavily regulated.

The news did not sit well with Chinese scientists, who are still recovering from the CRISPR baby scandal. “It makes you wonder, if their reason for choosing to do this in a Chinese laboratory is because of our high-tech experimental setups, or because of loopholes in our laws?” lamented one anonymous commentator on China’s popular social media app, WeChat.

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How scientists built a ‘living drug’ to beat cancer

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IN 2010, EMILY Whitehead was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, a cancer of certain cells in the immune system.

THIS IS THE most common form of childhood cancer, her parents were told, and Emily had a good chance to beat it with chemotherapy. Remission rates for the most common variety were around 85 percent.

It would be 20 months before they’d understand the shadow behind that sunny statistic, and the chilling prospect of volunteering their daughter as patient zero for the world’s first living drug.

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Proteins trapped in glass could yield new medicinal advances

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The protein, captured in an extremely thin piece of glass — around 50 nanometres in diameter, is sliced up, atom by atom, with the help of an electrical field. It is then analysed through Atom Probe Tomography, and the 3D structure is recreated on a computer. Credit: Small: Volume 15, Issue 24, Atom Probe Tomography for 3D Structural and Chemical Analysis of Individual Proteins Gustav Sundell, Mats Hulander, Astrid Pihl, Martin Andersson Copyright Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA. Reproduced with permission.

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, have developed a unique method for studying proteins which could open new doors for medicinal research. Through capturing proteins in a nano-capsule made of glass, the researchers have been able to create a unique model of proteins in natural environments. The results are published in the scientific journal, Small.

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